Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Manga Review - Mobile Suit Gundam: Ecole du Ciel

Mobile Suit Gundam: Ecole du Ciel
Written & Illustrated by Haruhiko Mikimoto
Gundam Series created by Hajime Yatate & Yoshiyuki Tomino
Mechanic Design by Yashinori Sayama
Produced by OUTASIGHT
Published in the U.S. by TokyoPop

Ecole du Ciel, which is French for School of the Sky, is the story of Asuna, a below-average student who initially struggles through her Mobile Suit training at the eponymous training facility. The story is set in the Universal Century (UC), or original, Gundam time-line and begins in UC 0085. This places the story firmly between the events detailed in the 1991 OAV Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory, set in UC 0083, and the 1985 television series Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, which begins in UC0087.

Ecole du Ciel will be familiar to long time Gundam fans as many of the elements which have served the series so well since its first appearance in 1979 are present. First there is the main character, Asuna Elmarit, who is the very definition of outsider. In addition be being an under-achiever in her training, her father was a professor at Zeon’s National Defense Academy. For those of you who don’t know the Gundam universe, the Principality of Zeon were the ultra-nationalist aggressors during the One Year War and are generally considered the bad guys during this period in the Gundam UC timeline. This means that Asuna is seen as a foreigner and enemy by many of her classmates, one of whom she likes.

In true Gundam tradition the story places the character relationships against a landscape of political machinations with a mysterious group driving the training at the school in their search to increase Earth’s development of newtypes for a coming conflict which they seem to think is inevitable.

Overall I really enjoyed the first volume of this series. Of course they would have had to go out of their way to make this bad as far as I am concerned as it combines two of my largest loves from my early days of anime fandom; namely Gundam and Mikimoto drawings. Honestly I have been a fan of Mikimoto since before I knew there were these people called character designer’s or that the Macross saga in Robotech was based on this Japanese show called Super Dimensional Fortress Macross. The man draws some pretty pictures and keeps it up in this book. I particularly like how he occasionally drops a page or panel in where he has decided to be less demanding with his line work, giving the page the feel of a pastel or watercolor. I absolutely love those pages even if they can be a little shocking. And then he gets to draw some Mobile Suits, including every Feddie’s favorite whipping boy, the Zaku II.

As for the story I found it to be a typical Gundam story which, while they have become somewhat formulaic, I still find enjoyable. In fact so much so that I am going to try and pick up the rest of this series, I am just hoping that TokyoPop does not decide to make this an online exclusive series. If you like character driven manga or anime with giant robot action, then this is a manga for you.

(For those of you who want to see more Gundam, I suggest this site, which is a compilation of screen-shots from the various anime series.)

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